Despite being a self-confessed grammar-phile, there is nothing that I find more tedious than editing. Needless to say, it is a necessary evil. So, here is a collection of tips and tricks that I have picked up during my time in the field and also some tips that I have picked up from others along the way. I hope they help you as much as they have me.
1. Question everything
Is that really how you spell Schwarzenegger, or does it need another ‘z’? Was it 1992 or 1993 that Terminator 2 won the Oscar for Visual Effects? Go back to the beginning and question all the facts, names, and statistics; it’s the only way to be sure.
2. Be consistent
Grammar can be highly subjective at times. My favourite example of this is the Oxford/serial comma. No matter your preference, always be consistent.
3. Less is more – within limits
If you’re like me, then chances are that high school got you into the habit of word-stuffing (using many words when one will suffice) to get your word count up. Be economical with your word choices, but also be sensible; if a reader has to use a dictionary, then you may want to think about a redraft.
4. Take a break
When it comes time to proofing your own work, it’s crucial that you separate yourself from your writing. Take a day or two before proofing, this will give you the emotional and mental space required to make the necessary cuts.
5. Prioritise your edits
Spelling, Grammar, and Punctuation (SG&P) should be the last section of editing that you do. Look at the big picture first, by looking at the structure and content. This will make editing SG&P easier, but it will also make the entire editing and proofing process more efficient.
6. Don’t rely on spell-check
Running your work through a spell-check is always a good idea, but don’t count on it; too many times have I had errors slip through (my favourite being: art instead of are – grammatically, it is technically correct despite being in the wrong voice for the piece).
7. Keep a dictionary nearby
If something does not look right or you’re not sure, look it up.